20 Mar 2020

Riding A Wave: Surfing for Farmers Success Story

From Country Life, 9:28 pm on 20 March 2020

Gisborne real estate agent Stephen Thomson loves surfing and knows how it helps beat stress, so he was keen to pass that onto farmers.

This summer, his weekly Surfing for Farmers event popped up in five other beach side spots, with many more planned for next spring.

Surfing for Farmers Mount Maunganui

Surfing for Farmers Mount Maunganui Photo: Susan Murray RNZ

Country Life catches up with people taking part in this year's Surfing for Farmers event at Mount Maunganui.

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Thompson started Surfing for Farmers back in Spring 2018.

The former farm consultant got the idea from the Netflix doco Resurface, which is about how surfing helped rehabilitate US soldiers returning from Afghanistan with PTSD.

"There was some science between the saltwater and surfing," Thomson says.

There was also a quote from a war vet that really struck a chord with him. 

"This guy said 'You know, every day I used to wake up and want to shoot myself, and now every day I wake up and want to go surfing'."

For Thomson, hearing that was an 'aha' moment.

As a keen surfer, he felt sure that a similar thing could be replicated in his home town of Gisborne to help stressed farmers.

He was right.

In that first summer (and it's kept going this summer) up to 50 farmers would front up to Wainui Beach on a Tuesday evening and spend an hour or so surfing.

Then they'd chew the fat over a sponsored BBQ dinner.

This summer the programme ran at two Canterbury beaches, Mount Maunganui, Waihi. Tutukaka in Northland joined in just this month.

There are plans to run similar events in five to ten more beaches next summer.

The Mount Surfing Academy owner Andy Collins donates all the surfboards, wet suits and his time.

He says seeing the participants come back up the beach with huge smiles is payment enough: "I call it the Surfers' Stoke, or the Surfers' Smile."

Check out photos from the Zespri Bay of Plenty & Coromandel Surf Night here.